8 Reasons Why Dogs Dig & How to Stop Them From Digging

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Does your dog like scratching and digging at their bed, blankets, your floor, and do they leave craters all over your yard, leaving you forlornly gazing out the window, wondering why on earth would you do that? Unfortunately, digging is one of those frustrating doggy behaviors that leave many dog owners scratching their heads.

Not only is digging holes in the backyard frustrating, but it can also be dangerous as there’s a chance that they could escape. Plus, they may suffer from broken nails, cuts, and scrapes.

If your four-legged friend has a propensity to turn your outdoor space into a moonscape with a single bout of channeling their inner canine, you’re not alone. In fact, there are lots of other pet parents wondering why dogs dig and what they can do about it.

No fret! I’ve got you the answers and solutions to help put an end to your canine’s digging behavior.

Understanding Your Dog's Digging Behavior

Dog Digging
Caption: A puppy is digging the ground

The first step to resolving any issue is understanding why it’s happening in the first place. So, before we get into ways to stop your dog from digging, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why our furry companions dig.

Digging is in Their Genes

Genetic factors have a significant role in a dog’s propensity to dig. While most dogs love to dig holes, breeds that were bred to hunt, like Dachshunds, Beagles, and Jack Russel Terriers, are more inclined to do it than others.

Take Terriers, for example. They were bred specifically to go after rodents and other small prey, causing them to have an innate hunting drive that leads them to dig, search, and flush out burrowing animals from their dens or underground lairs. So, when you find your furry friend digs in your backyard, they may just be acting out on instinct and do what exactly they were born to do.

They're Searching for Prey

As previously mentioned, dogs that were bred to hunt have a strong urge to dig to try rooting out small animals like gophers. And your backyard can look like an all-you-can-eat buffet, with all sorts of critters to be hunted down.

In fact, many dogs will start digging in an area where they’ve caught the scent of their prey. So if your dog suddenly digs and that they are particularly interested in one specific spot in your yard, it might be worth taking a closer look to see if there’s an underground hole that could be housing some furry critters.

They're Bored

Sometimes, it’s not that your dog wants to find prey or acts on instinct. Instead, they are just bored and start digging holes. As you know, dogs have a lot of energy, and when they don’t have anything to do, they can often turn to destructive behaviors like digging and excessive barking.

Meaning if your dog is cooped up inside for an extended period and doesn’t receive enough exercise throughout the day, they may entertain themselves by digging up all the dirt in your backyard. Not only that, but they might also relieve their boredom by getting into things like rugs or ripping apart old chairs or other pieces of furniture to keep themselves busy and release pent-up energy.

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They're Stressed

Dogs may also start digging when they’re anxious. In fact, it’s a way for them to self-soothe and eases their anxiety. It’s sort of like how we chew our fingernails or might eat and drink too much when we’re stressed out.

Dogs may become stressed for many reasons. For instance, one of their favorite people like yourself leaves home for work or school, changes in their daily routine, move to a new home, an addition of a new pet, or loud noises like thunderstorms and fireworks.

Of course, that’s not to say every time your furry friend suddenly exhibits digging behavior, they’re stressed. But if you can’t seem to figure out the cause, there’s a possibility that they may be feeling stressed out about something.

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They Dig to Shelter Themselves

Another reason your dog digs up your yard is that they are denning. Just as wolves, coyotes, and foxes do in the wild, it is an instinctual behavior that they will dig to create a space where they can feel safe and secure, and of course, to protect themselves from the elements.

You will find that female dogs are more prone to this behavior than males because they usually are the ones who create a safe space for the pups. You will also notice that northern breeds like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are more inclined to “den,” especially in hot weather.

So if you’re seeing your dog dig more holes in the yard during the summer months, it might be because they are trying to create a cool and shady spot to offer themselves some relief from the heat.

They're Hiding Treasure

Believe it or not, dogs sometimes dig holes in the yard to hide things that are precious to them, whether it be food, a toy, a bone, or treats! In fact, some dogs are very possessive of their belongings and will go to great lengths to protect them.

So if your dog happens to be a hoarder, they may dig and bury their favorite treasures in the yard as a way to keep the item they deem valuable safe. And rightfully so, as your fido may think that another canine or person in your home may want to snatch their treasure away.

They're Looking For a Way to Escape

A digging dog may also be attempting to dig their way out and make a run for it. Now you may ask why they would want to do that when you treat them so well, providing them with a loving home and plenty of food and affection. Well, there are many reasons for that, and I can write a whole new article just to talk about that topic.

But in a nutshell, isolation, boredom, frustration, sexual roaming, fear, change in their routine, and separation anxiety are all common causes of a dog’s escape behavior. They may try to run away either by digging, climbing, or jumping over the fence. And if your canine is a Houdini hound and a frequent offender, you may want to consider reinforcing the perimeter of your yard with dog-proof fencing to keep them from escaping.

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Digging is Fun!

Remember the times when you were a kid and dug holes in the sandbox at the park? And do you remember how much fun it was to make a deep hole at the beach, crawl inside, and then cover yourself with sand at the top?

Well, dogs feel the same way! A dog digging holes in the yard is a way to play and may just be plain fun for them. In fact, some dogs prefer to dig than play the classic game of fetch, and some will enjoy it too much until the point where they can spend hours digging up dirt.

How to Stop Your Dog From Digging

Caption: Two dogs are digging the ground

Now that you know some of the reasons why your dog may be digging, it’s time to take action and put an end to this behavior. There are various ways you can get your canine to stop digging. These include:

Giving Your Dog Plenty of Exercises

One of the easiest ways to keep your dog from digging is to tire them out. And as the old saying goes, a tired dog is a calm, happy dog. So make sure to provide them with enough daily exercise by taking them out for walks, hikes, runs, bringing them to a dog park, or even playing fetch or tug-of-war in the backyard.

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Building a Backyard Dog Run

Too tired to take your dog out for walks? Then consider building a backyard dog run where your pup can play freely. This will give them the exercise they need and release that pent-up energy, ultimately stopping them from digging.

Providing Them With Enough Mental Stimulation

As mentioned earlier, dogs can get restless and are more likely to engage in destructive behavior if they are bored and don’t have anything to do. Just imagine spending the whole day locked up in an empty room without much activity except for staring at four walls? It would drive you nuts!

Some great ways to stimulate your dog’s mind include hiding treats around the house for them to find, playing hide-and-seek, teaching them new tricks, and giving them a puzzle toy or a Kong filled with peanut butter.

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Putting Up Obstacles

Another way to discourage your canine from digging is to make it challenging for them to do what exactly they are trying to do. That includes burying chicken wire a few inches into the ground so your dog can’t dig in, placing rocks in areas where they like to dig, or planting bushes along the perimeter of your yard.

Getting Your Dog a Calming Collar

Does your fido get anxious when you leave them alone? And you can confirm that they resort to digging as an outlet for their worries? If so, a calming collar may be the solution for you. These collars release a scent that mimics the comforting pheromones produced by mother dogs to their puppies to help calm your furry friend down and relax their brain.

Ensuring Your Pup Has a Cozy Place to Rest

Making sure your four-legged friend has a cozy place in the yard where they can rest and relax is also crucial. This can be anything from a shady spot where they can escape from the summer heat, an elevated outdoor bed with a soft, cozy blanket to keep them comfortable, or an insulated dog house that shields them from the cold weather.

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Neutering Your Dog

When dogs reach sexual maturity, which typically occurs around six months of age, they will have a strong desire to mate. This may be contributing to their digging behavior, leading them to dig up your yard as part of their efforts to escape and find another dog to mate with. So spaying your canine is something to consider if you haven’t already done so.

Check Your Yard for Burrowing Animals

Remember I mentioned earlier that some dogs might dig because of their hunting instincts? Well, if you think this may be the case with your dog, inspect for any holes or tunnels that might house rodents, gophers, or other burrowing animals like moles and find ways to get rid of these pests.

Designating a Digging Spot

Last but not least, consider providing your pooch with a specific spot where they are allowed to dig, especially if they are particularly fond of digging and you just can’t seem to stop them. You can use, say, a sandbox, for example, and bury their favorite toys and bones. This will make that digging zone more interesting, which will, in turn, prevent them from digging elsewhere and destroying your yard.